Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions

Been seduced again by that late-afternoon stopover at Borders to pick up some bit of minutiae - a Theatre Bay Area magazine? An overpriced scone? Don't recall. Point is, I came home late last night loaded down by several more pounds' worth of books than I carried when I left the house.

Susan Minot's beautiful 1998 novel, "Evening," has recently been made into a movie and, as of yet, is slowly fading from theaters as a bona fide flop, especially considering its pedigree of major Hollywood players. And that's a good thing, in spite of the cast, because it's pretty much a piece of shit film with a lot of famous names, striking scenery and charming costumes that remains blank and cliched. My man Patrick Wilson plays this dude who, for reasons pretty unexplained and unexplored, carries along most of the main characters in his wake without realizing they're all in love with him, and Claire Danes is the woman who meets him for a brief weekend, and whom we later see in elder form as Vanessa Redgrave, dying in the comfort of her home as the last stages of cancer set in and the morphine drip grows ever stronger.

There's death, tragedy, lost love, regret, memory, beauty, sorrow. And, of course, lots of hard liquor and repressed WASP-y family drama. And Michael Cunningham, one of my favorite authors and one of the most lyrical writers of the time, adapted the screenplay for the film. So you'd really think it should work, eh? But no. It's still a glossy empty blank slate of a piece of shit.

But then you have Minot's novel itself, which is so glowingly fluid that it takes your breath away, so true-to-life in the wasting sorrow of a lingering death and the strange waking dreams that accompany it, which left me standing in a Union Square bookstore amidst tourists barking about maps and cable cars and homeless dudes curled up in the corner reading Tolstoy, completely sobbing there in the middle of the floor only two pages in. And here again is that classic irony: that the most mindful stream-of-consciousness writing, the most accessible and honest and true, translates only as trite pap when taken to the big screen, even when your screenwriter is Mr. Pulitzer Prize Winner himself and he's thrown in a bisexual love triangle for good measure. And when Meryl and Vanessa share the screen with Toni and Natasha and Glenn.

Point being: read the book. It's heartbreakingly gorgeous. Skip the movie. Unless it's for pure Patrick Wilson appreciation alone. Because the rest of it is pretty damn shite.


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